Washburn ready to play real games

Washburn ready to play real games

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Dessert came later than usual for left-hander Jarrod Washburn on Wednesday.

"I am used to sitting on the couch in front of the TV eating a bowl of ice cream," Washburn said after pitching 3 1/3 innings in the Mariners first night game of Spring Training. "It feels kind of weird playing at night, but it's something you have to get used to."

One thing Washburn shouldn't have to get used to this season is having the defense let him down the way it did in the first inning in the Mariners' 7-4 Cactus League victory over the Diamondbacks before 12,711 at Peoria Stadium, the sixth-largest crowd in the 13-plus years Spring Training games have been played in this Phoenix suburb.

A potential double-play grounder was mishandled by shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt, allowing one run to score and a misplayed popup between home plate and first base caused more head-shaking before a run-scoring DP and a strikeout on his 32nd pitch ended the inning.

"That many pitches early on take its toll," he said. "Hopefully, I don't run into many situations like that during the season. But the odds are that it's going to happen sooner or later, and you have to bear down, make a pitch and find a way to get through it."

Washburn said he didn't know exactly how many pitches he threw in the first inning, but, "It did feel like a long inning."

The first half-inning was 15 minutes long.

Washburn, who will make his first regular season start on April 4 against the Orioles in Baltimore, had an easier second inning, stranding two runners, a three-up, three-down third and rocky fourth before being removed following his 87th pitch.

"Getting to 87 pitches with one out in the third ... that's tough to do," he said.

And it's not highly recommended for a team that is trying to get the starting pitchers to log more innings this season, preferably regularly pitching into the sixth or seventh inning.

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While he was in there Wednesday night, Washburn continued to work on the new grip being used to throw his changeup. There were mixed results, so he will keep working on it.

"I threw some in situations tonight that I wouldn't throw in the [regular] season," he said. "But that's what Spring Training is all about."

He even threw a changeup on a full-count pitch.

"Right there is a product of me wanting to get the confidence in that pitch," he said, "and this is the place to find out."

He has two more Cactus League starts to fine-tune all of his pitches.

"I'm ready for baseball to start for real," he said. "I threw 87 pitches and didn't feel tired. If they started counting tomorrow, I would be happy. I'm happy with where I am. I'm healthy, my body feels great and I look forward to playing games that matter."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.